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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Monday, July 28, 2014
Obama's foreign policy failures
The Washington Examiner: "For White House, even small victories prove elusive in Gaza, Ukraine." I'm not so sure that Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Hamas leaders would care what any president said, but President Barack Obama has no credibility with world leaders that he is guaranteed to be ignored when he speaks.

Modern Western democracies are like Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries
Michael Barone sees similarities between today's crony capitalist societies and those described by historian H. R. Trevor-Roper. Read Barone's column to see if Trevor-Roper's essay is worth your time.

On this day in Canadian history
On July 28, 1930, R.B. Bennett's Conservatives defeated William Lyon Mackenzie King's Liberals, winning 134 seats compared to 91 for the Liberals, nine for the United Farmers, and 12 others. The Conservatives had 47.79% of the vote, compared to 45.5% for the Liberals. Rising unemployment hurt the governing Grits, who lost 26 seats. But Bennett would only serve one term as the Tories could do little to help Canadians during the first half of the Great Depression.

Buyer's remorse
Hot Air notes a new CNN/ORC poll finds that if American voters could have a do-over for the 2012 election, Mitt Romney would beat Barack Obama 53%-44%. This is the definition of a useless poll but as Hot Air's Noah Rothman says, "this question is an instructive measurement of voter satisfaction with the president" three months in advance of the midterm elections.

Hamas used child labour to build tunnels; 160 kids killed
Breitbart reports:
Hamas killed hundreds of children in the construction of its extensive tunnel network, built partly to carry out attacks on children across the Gaza border in Israel. That report--confirmed by Hamas itself--emerged in 2012, not from the Israeli government, but the sympathetic Journal of Palestine Studies, in an article that otherwise celebrated the secret tunnel system as a symbol of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli "siege" of the Gaza Strip.
The article, "Gaza's Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel's Siege," was published in the Summer 2012 edition of the Journal by Nicholas Pelham, who writes for the Economist and the New York Review of Books, according to his bio. It is receiving new attention thanks to Myer Freimann of Tablet, an online journal of Jewish affairs, whose post about Hamas's use of child labor has gone viral in social media.
Pelham wrote that despite the economic success of the tunnels underneath the Egyptian border, which enriched Hamas through a thriving black market as well as arming it with new weapons, there were a few drawbacks. One of these was a "cavalier approach to child labor and tunnel fatalities," he noted. "During a police patrol that the author was permitted to accompany in December 2011, nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels, where, much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies. At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials."

Olivia Chow is worse than you can imagine
Eye on a Crazy Planet has highlights/lowlights from the Toronto Sun interview with Toronto mayor wannabe Olivia Chow. My favourite is her touting of her private sector experience.

Sunday, July 27, 2014
People like this must be kept away from political office
Dylan Ross.
(HT: Jonah Goldberg)

Weekend list
1. Screen Crush: "Comic-Con 2014: Epic Cosplay Photo Gallery."
2. Grantland has a short 10-minute documentary on the history of the high-five.
3. Business Insider has a map of the "Happiest And Unhappiest Regions In The US."
4. Graphjam on how we view drivers on the road.
5. Mental Floss explains "How Do Royalties Work for 'Weird Al' Songs?" And the one artist that won't let Weird Al parody his songs.
6. Conservation says that insects are the future of fast food.
7. Priceonomics on golfers buying hole-in-one insurance.
8. From the animal kingdom. National Geographic answers the question, "Are Crows Smarter Than Children?" tells you "What Happens To Snakes In Microgravity." The Daily Telegraph report "Adorable minuscule monkey welcomed to London Zoo" comes with video. Boing Boing has a great photo: an otter cuddle pile.
9. "5 Recent Blockbusters That Prove Movies Hate Science."
10. Neatorama on rabbit poop flamethrowers.
11. Trailer for Season Five of The Walking Dead:

George Will is wrong on what the Senate needs
Washington Post columnist George Will says the Senate needs Monica Wehby, a pediatric surgeon running to defeat Oregon's incumbent Democratic Senator, Jeff Merkley. My concern is not Wehby's moderation, which is probably the only reason she has any chance to win as a Republican in Oregon, a trendy Left Coast state; no my concern is that there is no shortage of politicians but American needs pediatric surgeons. Will makes the case that health care is an important sector of the economy that is inadequately represented in the legislatures that govern so much of the industry. Another thing that Will likes about Wehby is that she is a novice politician -- only eight senators do not have previous political experience -- and while typically that endears a candidate to me, I'm of the view that the good that comes from Wehby doing her current job is much greater than anything she can do in the one she is seeking.

The demographic that decides U.S. elections
The Atlantic's Molly Ball notes that recent elections (presidential and midterms) have been decided by working class voters (those earning less than $50,000). When the gap between Republicans and Democrats favour the Dems by just ten percentage points, the GOP wins, but when the Democrats take this demographic by 20 percentage points, they are victorious. Ball's conclusion is that economic populism wins the day. One might take this analysis with a grain of salt considering the source for her insight is Mike Podhorzer, the political director of the AFL-CIO, but it makes sense. Blue collar voters were key to Reagan's victories in the 1980s when the Republicans offered tax cuts to help make life more affordable for working class voters. Taxes are much lower than they were when Reagan took office and conservatives need a new affordability agenda if the GOP wants to win over disenchanted voters making just around the national average income. Counting on anti-Obama sentiment might not -- and should not -- be enough.

Helping the world's poor
Matt Ridley has a longish but important article in the Wall Street Journal. He criticizes the United Nations for having too many Millennium Development Goals (eight) and the process for finding the next set of United Nations target to benefit the developing world (one working group has 169 targets so far). Ridley sensibly advises the UN to partner with Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Center which does a great job of prioritizing the "good things" the world can do by employing vigorous cost-benefit analyses. Ridley produces his one five-item list and three seem like the sort of things that everyone can agree upon if they put their political favourites aside (especially environmental causes that are often at odds with helping the poor), namely reducing malnutrition, tackling malaria and tuberculosis, and expanding free trade. All are cost-effective ways to vastly improve the lives of the most vulnerable and desperate people in the world. Pre-primary education's benefits are far from settled social science and providing universal sexual and reproductive health is both too controversial to get widespread support and conflates rights issues for women with the health concerns of mothers and their newborn children (increasing vaccinations, improving nutrition, and providing hygienic baby-deliveries would go a long way to reducing both maternal and infant mortality). Focusing international aid (multilateral and country-to-country) in these priority areas of malnutrition and malaria/tuberculosis, and opening up trade would go a long way to reducing suffering in the developing world. The UN's approach of dozens of unfocused targets guarantees that few problems will be dealt with comprehensively, but perhaps that's the point; if aid agencies and international organizations solve problems, they undermine their reason for existence.

Saturday, July 26, 2014
Box office slumps, maybe the movies suck
Nikkie Finke: "Friday Box Office: #1 ‘Lucy’ Wkd $45.1M, #2 ‘Hercules’ $30.2M As Summer 2014 Slump Continues." Both movies look terrible. Maybe Hollywood should stop producing crap and people will watch movies again. That said, remember when $45 million was a pretty good first two weeks?

On this day in Canadian history
On July 26, 1923, U.S. President Warren Harding stops in Vancouver on way back from Alaska and in doing so becomes the first sitting president to visit Canada. He contracted pneumonia while playing golf in the city and died a week later.

Bring back firing squads?
Alex Kozinski, chief justice of Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals and a chief libertarian jurist, says that the recent botched, two-hour execution of an Arizona murderer, indicates that firing squads should replace the supposedly antiseptic lethal injection executions. The CSM reports, "Kozinski said using drugs to carry out executions is 'a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful'." That is an understandable criticism of the current regime governing capital punishment but we should also appreciate the desire by some libertarians to make the death penalty as repugnant as possible.
Also repugnant is the the double murder committed by Joseph Wood.
Anyway, I see a future alliance of capital punishment supporters and opponents advocating the firing squad: supporters because it is increasingly difficult for states to obtain the necessary concoction of lethal drugs (sodium thiopental and pentobarbital) and opponents because they think the voting public will turn against the procedure or that courts will throw out the penalty as unconstitutional because it is cruel and unusual.

Kathy Shaidle is a national treasure
Consider the range for her sardonic wit.
Exhibit A: on a Pink-related post.
Exhibit B: on a Toronto deli sponsoring the Palestine Film Festival.

'No evidence that the California cellphone ban decreased accidents'
Hot Air notes that a study published in the Transportation Journal on California's cellphone ban found no discernible benefit to banning the popular devices.

Friday, July 25, 2014
Rick McGinnis shot John Waters thrice
Rick McGinnis on taking pictures of John Waters 17 years apart and about John Waters more generally:
It's amazing to think that there was once a time when cultural slumming was something hipsters did, and that one man could singlehandedly corner the market on movies about misfits, weirdos, deviants, freaks and fuck-ups. While Waters' vision of a world more tolerant of oddballs turned into musical comedy, the inspiration for his characters have gone on display every night thanks to reality TV like Honey Boo-Boo and Hoarders.
Ultimately, my affection for Waters' films was tainted by the people who said they loved them, like falling out with a band because you can't stand their fans. Waters actually seemed to have an honest affection for the lunatic fringe of white, working-class culture that I didn't see his audiences sharing, and the laughter edged too close to mockery for me.

Can you 'normalize' abortion?
From "safe, legal and rare," to rom-coms about abortion, the pro-choice rhetoric has changed a lot in 20 years. Megan Cairns at The America Spectator:
Even though praises Emily Letts’ work and NPR calls Obvious Child a “momentous film of small, embarrassing truths,” there is a reason will never catch on, Obvious Child is a box office flop, and public opinion on abortion is moving more and more towards the pro-life side of the spectrum. No matter how much the far left tries to sterilize abortions, most women know the truth. Abortions hurt—mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Eliminating a preborn child will never be the same as removing one's tonsils.

Is Sharknado a documentary?
Actress Tara Reid:
"I mean, the chances of it happening are very rare, but it can happen actually. Which is crazy. Not that it – the chances of it are, like, you know, it's like probably 'pigs could fly'. Like, I don't think pigs could fly, but actually sharks could be stuck in tornados. There could be a sharknado."

Why the 2009 Detroit-bound Christmas suicide bomber failed
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Underwear bomber plot failed because he 'wore same pants for two weeks.'
US official says terror plot failed because bomber did not change his undergarments for two weeks and soiled the explosives.
As John Pistole, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, said, "Thank goodness for bad hygiene."

Guns save lives
The Daily Caller reports:
A Pennsylvania police chief says that a doctor undoubtedly saved lives after he shot a gunman who opened fire Thursday in an incident that left a hospital case worker dead.
The gunman, Richard Plotts, of Upper Darby, opened fire at Mercy Elizabeth Hospital, just outside of Philadelphia, shortly after entering an office with the case worker, the Associated Press reports.
Witnesses said that when they opened the office door after hearing shouting, they saw Plotts with a gun. The witnesses closed the office door and called 911. Minutes later, they heard gun shots.
Plotts had shot and killed a 53 year-old female case worker. He sustained several critical gun shot wounds himself from the gun of a hospital psychiatrist. The psychiatrist suffered a graze wound to his head. Plotts was taken into custody.
The tragic loss of the case worker's life cannot be discounted but overall you have see this as a happier ending than these situations often end up being. Armed citizens taking the defense of their own lives -- and their fellow citizens' lives -- into their own hands often results in a smaller number of fatalities than does waiting for the police to show up after the carnage has been completed.

'Pro Bono Law Morphs into Left-wing Lawfare'
Powerline's Paul Mirengoff notes that the huge law firm of Kirkland-Ellis is representing Shirley Sherrod, an Department of Agriculture official fired and rehired from the Obama administration after her anti-white farmer views became public, against the widow of Andrew Breitbart, the man who posted excerpts of the video. Mirengoff notes that "based on a review of the full video, Sherrod was offered a new position at the Department of Agriculture," yet Sherrod still "decided to sue Breitbart. And now that Andrew is no longer with us, she is pursuing her claim against his widow." Mirengoff says it is "vengeful, spiteful crusade" that law firms should have no part of. "The modern left has hopelessly perverted the concept of pro bono representation, and Sherrod’s case against Andrew’s widow is a near-perfect manifestation of that perversion."

Steyn on Obama's foreign policy MO
Mark Steyn:
Bush may have been loathed by large numbers of Europeans and Arabs, but he had very cordial relationships with their leaders, from Blair and Merkel to the brace of Abdullahs in Jordan and Saudi. Obama's too cool to work the phones. Which helps explain that photograph at right. With regard to what's happening in Gaza, the US president has no relationships with anybody in the region who matters. To define American "allies" as broadly as possible, name one who has any reason to trust Obama or his emissaries. In Cairo, General Sisi regards Obama as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer; in Riyadh, King Abdullah regards him as the enabler of the Shia Persian nuclear program; and in Amman, the other King Abdullah regards him as the feckless bungler who's left the Jordanians with the world's wealthest terrorist group on their eastern border.
Shuttle diplomacy, of the kind the vainglorious Kerry is attempting, only works if you already have a relationship. You can't start trying to build one after the shooting's started. And in this case the regional leaders' crude self-interest outweighs whatever value they might place on staying on the right side of President Fundraiser and Secretary Windsurfer.

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Walk a dog without a leash and get treated like a violent criminal
Zenon Evans at Reason's Hit & Run:
John Gladwin, a 69-year-old Army veteran, "must allow home visits by a federal probation officer, file monthly activity reports and … must get written authorization anytime he leaves the massive Central District covering most of Southern California," details LA Weekly. The government chooses to monitor this retiree and restrict his movement, though he's never committed a violent crime or sold illegal drugs or weapons. No, he let his dog, Molly, off her leash to play just beyond their yard in the vast expanse of Santa Monica Mountains.
The thing is, Molly has never actually caused trouble with hikers or others in these mountains, which are divided among four different authorities – California State Parks, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and U.S. National Park Service – and each have different rules. But he's twice been caught in federal territory just hundreds of feet from his own property and has been prosecuted for violating a leash law. Now, "if he's caught with so much as a foot in the park, which stretches 50 miles from the Hollywood Hills to Point Mugu, [Gladwin] will go to jail."
Gladwin is riding out a 12-month probation for what seems like a few unfortunate encounters with officials on power trips.

Grocery-store rotisserie chicken as sign of progress
Megan McArdle on the fact that store-bought rotisserie chicken being cheaper than making it on your own spit-roast chicken:
The rotisserie chickens were actually cheaper than buying and roasting my own.
Cat Vasko noticed the same thing and decided to figure out why. The answer makes a surprising amount of sense: Grocery stores make them out of unsold chicken that is about to pass its expiration date. It’s an elegant way to make a profit out of food that would otherwise be a net loss. And it’s not just chicken -- according to Vasko, the ever-expanding prepared-foods section of the supermarket uses up all sorts of unsold produce and meat. It is, as she says, a bit like hunter-gatherers using every inch of the animal.
This is the sort of thing that no one talks about when they talk about innovation --and yet, it’s a major way in which our economy has become more efficient over the last few decades. Reducing spoilage means grocery stores can sell us raw chickens at lower prices -- and that we can get fresh, delicious prepared food at even lower prices. It’s a win for the grocer and the consumer.
And this from Vasko is worth reading if you are thinking that it all sounds yucky or dangerous:
It's worth noting, first of all, that sell-by, use-by and best-by dates were never intended as indicators of food safety, but rather as estimates of food quality. The USDA itself says that food product dating is intended to "help the purchaser to know the time limit to purchase or use the product at its best quality. It is not a safety date."

Washington football fans: do not change team name
Politico reports that polling firm Vox Populi conducted a poll of 701 self-described NFL fans in the Washington DC-area and found that 71% of them do not find the team name Redskins offensive and 65% do not was to see the Washington Redskins change their name. (The respective numbers among Redskins fans, as opposed to football fans, is 83% and 77%.) Only 30% of NFL fans and 19% of Redskins fans said they do want to see a name change.

Ottawa's foreign workers program challenged in court
The Toronto Star: "Foreign workers program challenged in court." The paper reports, "Restaurant owners have launched a court challenge against Ottawa in halting their applications to hire migrant workers and placing them on a blacklist." Let's save time and not bother with hearings and the wait for judgement. The Supreme Court of Canada is going to rule that the Conservative government is wrong, and they can do that right away and not waste everyone's time. We don't need legislatures to pass laws and bureaucrats to regulate, when we have judges to rule us. I guess it makes their job easier if there is a Conservative government to do the heavy lifting of designing a policy and then the ermine-robed justices dictate that the exact opposite thing is what they deem appropriate.

Happy blogging anniversary to Kathy Shaidle
I'm sure the world is a better place and I know my online life is better because of Kathy Shaidle's Five Feet of Fury (and before that, Relapsed Catholic). I check a lot of blogs regularly but FFF is one of the three I refresh repeatedly throughout the day. She says the things most on the right think but are too scared to utter publicly. She has been blogging for 14 years now. Congratulations on maintaining a high level of excellence for so long. And thank you, Kathy, for blogging.
When people ask me how they can support my blog, I always tell them to financially support Five Feet of Fury and Blazing Cat Fur or buy her book. They are still being sued and need the help. Perhaps a modest donation of 14 dollars on the 14th blogversary.

William Anthony Hay reviews Edmund Fawcett's Liberalism: The Life of an Idea in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Fawcett doesn't understand how modern liberalism became illiberal -- or even that this phenomenon occurred -- but Hay does:
In the 19th century, liberal attacks on authority dismayed the traditionalist members of society. Little could they imagine what was to come—not only, in the modern era, a celebration of radical individual autonomy but a new sort of orthodoxy enforced with Jacobin severity. Mr. Fawcett sees a backlash against liberalism in the anti-immigrant views of Marine le Pen in France and in the views of America's "resentful conservatives," who resist, say, the celebration of multiculturalism or the normalizing of homosexuality and legalizing of abortion. He neglects to mention another sort of backlash: the tendency of "liberals" today to assume that whatever they hold to be in error has no rights—a truly illiberal idea.

Don't fly Delta
Michael Munger had terrible flight with Delta when he went first class and it is worth reading his bullet-pointed rant about everything that went wrong. But this is the bottom line and from everything I've experienced and heard from others, this rings true:
Delta is notorious for its indifference to customer service, but this was amazing. If you fly Southwest, you'll notice that they have the door open and people filing out within two minutes of landing. Delta wants to show you who's boss. They are. Apparently, this happens a lot.
I've always had great service with Southwest and I've only taken Delta once but it was lousy. And if memory serves me correctly, Delta is usually more expensive.

IRS scandals pile up
First the Internal Revenue Service harasses conservative groups for partisan purposes and then it lies about losing emails that may expose the scandal as being every bit as bad as many of expect it to be. But lost emails? Really? As Investor's Business Daily editorializes: "The IRS is counting on the general public's relative ignorance of computer technology to believe its smoke-and-mirror cover-up." IBD summarizes six basic questions posed by the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, experts in the area of computer hardware and date retention:
1. First, what happened to the IRS' IT asset managers who seemingly vanished during this critical period? IAITAM , which runs the only worldwide certification program for IT asset managers, says its records show that at least three IRS IT asset managers were moved out of their positions at the time of the May 2013 inspector general's report that detailed the agency's targeting practices. What can they tell us?
2. The hard drives in question are federal property and cannot be destroyed or recycled without proper documentation. "Proper IT asset management requires clear proof and records of destruction when drives are wiped or destroyed," notes IAITAM President and founder Barbara Rembiesa. Where are these records?
3. IAITAM asks if the drives were destroyed by an outside IT asset destruction unit, a not-unusual practice among federal agencies. If so, it adds an entire second layer of documentation of the destruction of these assets, including who approved it.
4. What are the IRS' specific policies and procedures on document retention when hard drives are damaged or destroyed? In most large private-sector organizations, hard drives and computers are just not tossed in the dumpster or dropped off at the local recycling center until recovery of the lost data is assured.
5. What is the disaster recovery policy at the IRS, an agency responsible for our most sensitive tax information, particularly in light of its statistically implausible number of hard drive crashes?
6. Where are Lerner's emails from her BlackBerry device and what is on the enterprise server? Some have even suggested Lerner may have off-loaded her emails to what is known as a USB flash drive and still has them in her possession, another federal offense.

The Obama recovery
John Merline in Investor's Business Daily:
The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index, for example, is lower today (at 45.6) than it was in June 2009, the month that marks the official end of the last recession (when it stood at 50.8).
Just 38% of the public say they're satisfied with the direction of the country, down from 51.5% in June 2009. Just 19% think the economy will improve over the next six months, compared with 34% five years ago.
Even more startling, five years after the recession ended, 45% think the economy is still contracting; more than half (52%) say it isn't improving.
What do these people know that Obama doesn't?
What Obama didn't say in his speech is that the recovery he has overseen — which started six months after he took office — also has been the weakest on record since World War II.
Real per-capita GDP is up just 6% since the recovery started, and if the economy had merely kept pace with the average postwar recovery, total GDP would be $1.6 trillion bigger than it is today.
Job growth is about half the average pace of the previous 10 recoveries — which translates into 7 million fewer jobs than an average recovery would have produced.
Nor did Obama point out that, as a result of this anemic growth, many Americans are doing a whole lot worse than they were when Obama's economic recovery began five years ago.
Real median household income is down almost 4% from where it was when the recovery started in June 2009, according to Sentier Research, which tracks such data monthly.
And Merline goes on and on about how the Obama recovery ain't recovering.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Sex-positive activist Trish Kelly drops out of race for Vancouver Parks Board after video of her talking about masturbation goes public
Eye on a Crazy Planet responds: "I thought being a jerk-off was a prerequisite for being a politician." Stacy McCain wonders if someone of "solitary" habits can really be part of the LGBT community. As The Interim reported in June, trans issues are important to Vancouver Parks.

'Senate spending down $1 million over same period a year ago'
The Ottawa Citizen reports:
Between March and May of 2013, the Senate’s administration approved slightly more than $5.5 million in expense claims. During the same period this year – the most recent numbers available – the Senate’s finance officials processed slightly more than $4.5 million in claims.
It's amazing what the Senate can save when they aren't paying for Pam Wallin's and Mike Duffy's travel and food. Just joking.
However, as the Citizen also reports, after Senate expense claims initially fell after new audit procedures were imposed in mid-2013, they are rising again.

At least they are finally being honest about their agenda
The Daily Caller: "130 Environmental Groups Call For An End To Capitalism." The Daily Caller reports:
“The structural causes of climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system,” reads the final draft of the Margarita Declaration, presented at a conference including about 130 environmental groups.

Help Debra Harrell
Debra Harrell is the South Carolina mom charged with child abandonment after letting her nine-year-old daughter play at the park on her own. Harrell spent a night in jail while her daughter remained in state custody for 17 days. Harrell has been fired by her employer, McDonalds. You can assist Harrell through this website. I hope she wins her criminal case and then sues the hell out of everyone.

2016 watch (Michelle Bachmann edition)
Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politics reports:
Though set to retire from the U.S. House after her term expires at the end of this year, Michele Bachmann may not be done with electoral politics.
The Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate told RealClearPolitics on Tuesday that she is considering a second White House run.
Bachmann ran a longshot campaign in January 2012, finishing sixth in the Republican Iowa caucuses six months after winning the Ames Straw poll in August 2011, and she dropped out of the GOP primaries the next day. Conroy does not report what compelling reason there is for Bachmann to run, but she does promise a better campaign infrastructure if she takes a second crack at the nomination in 2016.

2016 watch (Paul Ryan edition)
Hot Air's Noah Rothman on Rep. Paul Ryan's rebranding of himself:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Republican Party’s bookish former vice presidential nominee, is starting to look like a candidate for the presidency in 2016.
In August, Ryan will publish a book with a distinctly campaign-themed title, The Way Forward. On Tuesday, the Federal Election Commission approved of a nationwide book tour sponsored by Ryan’s publisher and the Political Action Committee the Wisconsin congressman founded, Prosperity Action PAC ...
This development comes as the congressman prepares to deliver a major address on conservative social policy. Preliminary reports indicate that Ryan hopes to shape the conservative approach to a variety of contentious socio-economic issues including poverty, education, tax and regulation policy, criminal justice reform, and the consolidation and streamlining of social safety net programs.
Interestingly, Ryan, a fiscal conservative known for advocating budgetary restraint, will be advocating for smarter spending rather than austerity in his speech.

Midterm elections
The National Journal's Josh Kraushaar on the uphill battle for Republicans to win the Senate which would require a net gain of seven seats:
To accomplish that feat, Republicans would need to oust four sitting Democratic senators. Over the last decade, Republicans have defeated only three sitting senators (Tom Daschle in South Dakota, Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, and Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas).
Recent history does not prove that defeating four incumbent Democrats is impossible, but that doing so is highly unlikely, at least within a vacuum. Kraushaar also provides reasons for thinking that 2014 might be different for Democratic incumbents:
I've argued before that the likelihood of 2014 being a wave election has been rising, given the president's consistently low approval ratings and the fact that Republicans are running evenly on the generic ballot (which usually translates into a clear GOP edge) and that the right-track/wrong-track numbers are near historic lows. All these big-picture signs are ominous for the party in power.

Wishful thinking?
David Catron at PJ Media: "Obamacare Slowly Succumbs to Its Birth Defects."
Relatedly, Cafe Hayek has several links to commentary on the Halbig decision.

Sadly, it's only The Onion
From The Onion: "Palestinians Starting To Have Mixed Feelings About Being Used As Human Shields." It's too bad this isn't true:
Saying they’ve begun to reevaluate their stance as the latest outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence has escalated, hundreds of residents of the Gaza Strip told reporters Friday they are starting to have mixed feelings about Hamas using them and their loved ones as human shields. “At this point, I have to say I’m pretty much on the fence about having militants strategically store their missile batteries in and around my home, which Israel will almost certainly want to bomb,” said Azzam al-Salhi, explaining that, while he’s always understood Hamas’ reliance on guerilla tactics to perpetuate the decades-long fight against Israel, he has recently soured on the idea of going to bed every night facing the real prospect of being incinerated by an Israeli airstrike intended for a Hamas arms cache.
Not that a Palestinian who thought this would ever go on the record to state it. But you have to wonder, what do everyday Palestinians actually think and feel about being used as human shields? When I went to Israel in 2008 and talked to Palestinians in and near Bethlehem, they all seethed with hatred for Israel and the Jews and blamed them for everything. And you have to wonder about a culture where we've seen mothers interviewed saying they want their young boys to grow up to be suicide bombers. The Hamas propaganda machine no doubt indoctrinates the locals that Israeli retaliation is actually aggression and the death of a few innocents is a price worth paying to end "Israeli oppression."
Also from The Onion: "Everyone In Middle East Given Own Country In 317,000,000-State Solution." This is funny:
“Given the incredibly complex and volatile sociopolitical landscape throughout the Middle East, a 317,000,000-state solution is the only realistic means of achieving lasting peace,” said U.N. Security Council president Eugène-Richard Gasana, noting that the treaty was reached after lengthy negotiations, which brought together each of the more than 300,000,000 independent factions. “We are pleased to finally come to an agreement that will hopefully stabilize the entire region and adequately satisfy the demands of all parties.”
“We are confident that with every man, woman, and child possessing his or her own autonomous area of sovereignty to run as he or she sees fit, we will avoid many of the conflicts that have plagued this part of the world for centuries and left countless dead,” Gasana added. “This is a bright new future for the Middle East.”

On this day in Canadian history
On July 23, 1935, Walter Lea's Liberal Party returned to power after a four-year absence, winning all 30 seats in the legislative assembly. It is the first time in the British Commonwealth that a government would face no opposition in an elected chamber and one of only two times in Canadian history (Frank McKenna's Liberals won all 58 seats in New Brunswick in 1987).

David Warren challenges media to cover anti-Christian persecution in Muslim Middle East
David Warren has a tremendous essay on news judgments: Kim Kardashian's dress gets more coverage than the "final solution" for Christians in Iraq. He writes about the lazy cliches that journalists use to describe persecution by Muslims rather than digging and understanding atrocities. And he concludes with a thought experiment:
The area and population of the territory the “Caliphate” now controls in Syria and Iraq being currently roughly equal to that controlled by the government of Israel, let us imagine what the “coverage” would be, had the Israelis told all Muslims to run for their lives; had they announced that everything Muslims owned now belonged to the Israeli government; and that any Muslim still found within Israel’s de facto borders after twenty-four hours would be put to the sword. Questions:
Do you think this story might make the front page?
Do you think the media would seek more information?
Do you think the matter might remain news for more than one day?

Rick McGinnis covers the Honda Indy
Rick McGinnis writes about the Honda Indy at his photo blog and BlogTO. Great pics and reporting; from his BlogTO piece:
The Pirelli series was a particular crowd pleaser, filled with Mustangs, Lambos, Ferraris, Audis and even a couple of Kias, painted in colour schemes that ranged from restrained to gaudy, driving in a dense pack that sometimes didn't make it through the turns intact. A pair of Cadillacs announced their presence before they could be seen with a howling engine noise that could be felt from your chest to your fillings, but the prettiest car by far was the GT Class-winning Dodge Viper raced by Montreal's Kuno Wittmer. In bright red with two wide white stripes running down the hood, it proved when it comes to race car liveries, you can't beat the classics.

'Underpunishment and overincarceration'
Reihen Salam at NRO's Agenda has a thoughtful column that should lead conservatives to rethink some of its tough-on-crime approach that isn't working and can lead to underpunishment and too much government:
How can we both have underpunishment and overincarceration? Several mechanism are at play. Mandatory minimum sentences all but guarantee that prison sentences for some offenders are longer than is strictly necessary to incapacitate potential offenders or to deter future crime. Other perpetrators, meanwhile, get away with their crimes because crime-fighting resources are stretched thin and the residents of violent-plagued communities often fail to cooperate with the police out of fear of reprisals or the belief that doing so is futile, an attitude that contributes to underpunishment.

'It’s Time for Conservatives to Stop Defending Police'
Conservative writer and lawyer A.J. Delgado in NRO:
For decades, conservatives have served as stalwart defenders of police forces. There have been many good reasons for this, including long memories of the post-countercultural crime wave that devastated, and in some cases destroyed, many American cities; conservatives’ penchant for law and order; and Americans’ widely shared disdain for the cops’ usual opponents. (“Dirty hippies being arrested? Good!” is not an uncommon sentiment.) Although tough-on-crime appeals have never been limited to conservative politicians or voters, conservatives instinctively (and, it turned out, correctly) understood that the way to reduce crime is to have more cops making more arrests, not more sociologists identifying more root causes. Conservatives are rightly proud to have supported police officers doing their jobs at times when progressives were on the other side.
But it’s time for conservatives’ unconditional love affair with the police to end.
Let’s get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way: Yes, many police officers do heroic works and, yes, many are upstanding individuals who serve the community bravely and capably.
But respecting good police work means being willing to speak out against civil-liberties-breaking thugs who shrug their shoulders after brutalizing citizens.
She has a very short list of representative examples of police violations of the property rights of non-suspects and innocent bystanders and Delgado rightly notes that one positive development in the Right's new-found questioning of the police is the Tea Party's "emphasis on constitutionalism" which has "refocused attention on the Bill of Rights."

Opportunity feminism vs. gender feminism
Ravishly interviews Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the new book Freedom Feminism, in which the author makes an important distinction:
Classical equality of opportunity feminism (I call it “freedom feminism”) is a legitimate human rights movement. There were arbitrary laws holding women back. Women organized and set things right. But, as I try to show in my writings, that reality-based movement has been hijacked by male-averse, conspiracy-minded activists. (I call them “gender feminists"). American women happen to be among the freest, most self-determining people in the world, but the gender feminists seek to liberate them from an all-encompassing “patriarchal rape culture.” What is their evidence that such a culture exits? They point to their own research as proof. But most of that research, including their famous statistics on women’s victimization, is spurious. Gender feminism is the opposite of an evidence-based movement—it’s propaganda based. Social movements fueled by paranoia and fantasy tend to be toxic.
When I work with female students I always recommend CHS's 1994 Who Stole Feminism?, for which I am usually thanked.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Police behaving reasonably
It shouldn't be news, but it is. Lenore Skenazy relates a good news story about police exercising common sense in dealing with the mother of a child who wandered near the road and the officer who was extra kind and went beyond the call of duty.

New WaPo venture
The Washington Post launched Storyline:
The Washington Post today launches ‘Storyline’, a new digital initiative led by economics writer Jim Tankersley examining how U.S. public policy is affecting the lives of Americans across the nation. Storyline will feature a mix of narrative writing, data journalism and visual storytelling to explore big questions like: who’s being lifted by the economic recovery, and who’s left waiting for it to kick in? How are Americans adapting to life under Washington’s immigration deadlock?
I am of three minds on this one. First, stories can show how the human side of larger issues. Second, anecdote is not actually the singular of data. Three, by their very nature anecdotes are very selective and can thus mislead and they can mislead with conscious or unconscious bias.

Steyn on the Malaysian air tragedy and Ukraine
Mark Steyn in the same piece noted below (Steyn on Hamas) discusses shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17:
The least worst explanation for what happened to MH17 is that "pro-Russian separatists" mistook it for a Ukrainian military transport and blew it out of the sky: A horrible accident in the fog of war. If that was the agreed storyline, you'd be anxious to make yourself respectable again in the eyes of the world as quickly as possible: You'd seal off the crash site until the international investigators and representatives of the governments who'd lost citizens could get there and retrieve the black boxes and recover the bodies. Instead, as I discussed on Rush on Friday, the "separatists" immediately refused to allow anybody near the site and began looting and defiling the bodies, stealing cash and credit cards and trophies and leaving what's left decomposing out in a field for anyone with a cellphone to shoot souvenir snaps of. As Greg Gutfeld says, "That field is no longer a war zone. It is an international crime scene."
Why? Why would you do this? Why, having "accidentally" shot down a passenger jet, would you then deliberately desecrate and dishonor the dead?
In his columns, blog posts, and radio appearances (as guest and host), Mark Steyn routinely makes observations and asks questions that no other journalist does.

Steyn on Hamas
Mark Steyn: "In the Sixties and Seventies, many anti-colonial movements used terrorism to advance their nationalist goals. Hamas uses nationalism to advance its terrorist goals." Or as Kathy Shaidle says: "Muslims: Even worse than the Irish!"

U.S. post-recession unemployment
Despite the hope and change delivered shortly after the 2008 financial crisis and accompanying recession, the current recovery is by far the worst American recovery in terms of duration of unemployment since World War II.

The Washington Redskins and busy-body politicians
The National Journal has a story on how few politicians, especially Democratic politicians, are willing to publicly defend the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins or even the right of the team owner, Dan Snyder, to run his business without politicians telling him what to name it. Except the story has a long list of Democrats who won't stick their nose in the NFL's business including a caucus of Virginia lawmakers, a local city councilor, and the governor of Virginia. Yet according to the article, a notable exception to the growing anti-Redskins tide in the party is Democratic operative Ben Tribbett -- the man who made hay of Senator George Allen using the term macaca. This quote from Tribett is important: "The only people I've ever heard called 'redskins' in my life are members of the Washington Redskins." I've heard a few racial epithets in my time and I've never heard the term redskin used to describe Indians. Never. So how derogatory is it if no one uses it in an inflammatory way?
Peter King of Sports Illustrated says he thinks the 'Skins will be renamed by 2016, which Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio says is not just a guess but probably a musing following King acquiring some piece of insider information. According to the PFT comments (as always) the fans seems to side pretty strongly against those who want change.

The welfare-weed state
NRO's Jillian Kay Melchior:
For the past six months, welfare beneficiaries in Colorado have repeatedly withdrawn their cash benefits at marijuana retailers and dispensaries, according to a new analysis by National Review Online. Such apparent abuses have caught the eye of Colorado’s executive and legislative powers alike, and the state has launched an effort to curb them.
At least 259 times in the first six months of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, beneficiaries used their electronic-benefit transfer (EBT) cards to access public assistance at weed retailers and dispensaries, withdrawing a total of $23,608.53 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash, NRO’s examination found.
In 2012, the latest fiscal year available, Colorado used $124 million in TANF money from the federal government, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Withdrawals at marijuana establishments represented only a tiny fraction of the more than 500,000 total EBT transactions that have occurred since recreational weed became legal in Colorado on January 1. And it’s impossible to determine how much of that welfare money actually was used to buy pot, given that cash benefits are fungible and some of these establishments also sell groceries.
Nevertheless, welfare withdrawals at weed stores are coming under increasing scrutiny, and Colorado’s legislators and bureaucrats are beginning an effort to restrict abuses.

Would you like some f---ing fries with that?
The Parents Television Council released its 2014 list of "Top Sponsors of Sexual Content, Suggestive Dialogue, Foul Language, and Violence," that exposes the companies that buy commercial time on the most offensive broadcasted content and surprisingly McDonalds is at the top of the list for sexual content, suggestive dialogue and foul language, while Subway is the top sponsor of violent content (and McDonalds isn't even on that item's top ten list). The PTC suggests that the family-friendly fast food chain's earnings have declined because it has moved to buying commercials during shows that feature more "adult" fare.

On this day in Canadian history
On July 22, 1950, former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King died from pneumonia. King is the longest serving prime minister at 21 years, 154 days over three stints from 19201-1948.

The foil to the Harlem Globetrotters
Louis Herman 'Red' Klotz died this week. He was the founder and coach of the Washington Generals (and various other teams that lost to the Globetrotters), as well as the third-shortest person to play in an NBA game. Joe Ponsnanski wrote a wonderful essay on Klotz that is worth reading, but below is a nice description of the Generals:
The Washington Generals always lose: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. They lose on indoor basketball courts and outdoor courts. They lose on ships, they lose on aircraft carriers,they lose in prisons, and they lose on the back of trucks. They lose in front of popes, in front of kings, in front of queens, in front of dictators, in front of presidents. They lose in Beijing, and they lose in Moscow, and they lose in Rio, and they lose in Mumbai, and they lose in Tulsa. They lose as the Washington Generals, mostly, but they also lose under different names like the Boston Shamrocks or the Atlantic City Seagulls or the Baltimore Rockets or the Chicago Demons or the New Jersey Reds or New York Nationals or an all-encompassing name of losers: The International All-Stars. In the end, aren’t we all International All-Stars just trying to win one time? They even lose on ice. Last year, the Generals played the Harlem Globetrotters in a basketball game on an ice pond in Central Park, and before the game their coach and founder Red Klotz, perhaps rashly, boasted: “We excel on ice.” They lost, of course. The Washington Generals always lose ...
There are rules for being a Washington General (to use their most general name).
1. The Generals are allowed — expected, even — to play completely legit on offense. There are no limitations. If they can beat the Globetrotters defense, they can score every single time down the court.
2. The Generals are allowed to play defense as hard as they want when the Globetrotters are not in one of their reams. For about 40% of every Globetrotters game, the basketball is straight up.
3. When the Globetrotters DO go into one of their reams, it is the Generals’ responsibility to play the stooge and make the Globetrotters look as good as possible. They are expected to play their roles with gusto and verve. Red Klotz had his pants pulled down thousands of times — he would always take pants duty first few games of every tour to give the other players time to settle in. He always tried to look as shocked and embarrassed as possible. In his mind, Red often said, his job was to play Ginger Rogers to the Globetrotters’ Fred Astaire, that is to do everything the Globetrotters did with the same joy and expertise but to do it going backward.
The Globetrotters might tell you that making them look good was the Generals’ No. 1 job, but Klotz never saw it that way. That’s what he meant by “play to win.” Their job was to bring the best out of the Globetrotters — the best basketball, the most inspired effort, the most intense joy, the most heated competition. He told his players that if the Globetrotters got sloppy passing the ball around in their famous weave offense, the Generals should “slap the ball away.” He told them if the Globetrotters got lazy on defense, they should drive the ball right down their throats. Klotz once tried this himself many years before. He sensed some sluggishness in the Globetrotters man-to-man defense, and he attacked the basket, and he was in the clear, and he shot a layup — only then he looked up and saw a giant hand way above his head. The giant hand caught the ball in midair before it reached the rip and held it there for a moment.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight looks at the statistical probability of going 6-14,000 (approximately) as Klotz's teasms, did.

Free New Yorker online for the Summer
The New Yorker has a new design and everyone can access it for the next month:
Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish—the work in the print magazine and the work published online only—will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall. Subscribers will continue to have access to everything; non-subscribers will be able to read a limited number of pieces—and then it’s up to them to subscribe ...
The new design also allows us to reach back and highlight work from our archives more easily. Beginning this week, every story we’ve published since 2007 will be available on, in the same easy-to-read format as the new work we’re publishing.

'Is Globalization Reducing Absolute Poverty?'
Yes, Andreas Bergh and Therese Nilsson, a pair of Swedish academics, answer in the forthcoming edition of World Development. In other words, free markets help the poor. Some of Nilsson's previous work suggest that globalization increases tolerance. And Bergh's new book on the Swedish welfare state interests me a lot.