Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015
The CBC is not serving the public interest
Michael Geist wrote in yesterday's Toronto Star that the CBC is its own worst enemy as demonstrated by its pitiful coverage of the federal election and how it has comported itself during this campaign:
The most puzzling decision has been its refusal to broadcast debates hosted by other organizations. The CBC may be disappointed with the debate approach adopted by the political parties in this campaign, but that does not change the sense that if the national public broadcaster does not air programs in the national public interest, it calls into question the very need for a public broadcaster. Indeed, the CBC seems to have cut its nose off to spite its face by doing its best to prove its critics right ...
With its rejection of the national debates, its limited use of debate clips and its attempts to limit re-use of its broadcast content, Canada’s national public broadcaster has marginalized itself during the election campaign at the very time that it could be demonstrating its relevance to the national political coverage.
It's actually quite the damning column that deserves to be read in its entirety. The pettiness of the CBC is remarkable and makes a mockery of its claim to serve the public interest.

Monday, October 05, 2015
2016 watch (Joe Biden edition)
At Hit & Run, Ed Krayewski says that Vice President Joe Biden is running out of time to announce whether he will contest the Democratic presidential nomination, for the most practical of reasons:
Politico repeats prior reporting that Joe Biden has decided to skip the first Democratic debate. But that news, which came out late last month, appeared to be based on Biden reportedly not making a decision until the end of October. The end of October is about as late as Biden can make a decision, because filing deadlines for state contests start to come up in November.

Canada's silent plurality

2016 watch (Ted Cruz edition)
The Hill reports that Senator Ted Cruz is undertaking a slow-but-steady campaign designed to be the last "outsider" candidate standing:
In the past week alone, he has stolen supporters from fellow Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul (Ky.), won the rousing support of evangelicals and had to be shut down by Senate leaders for trying to complicate efforts on a short-term funding extension with a protest vote against Planned Parenthood funding.
That reflects Cruz's efforts to try to emerge as the consensus anti-establishment candidate if and when the top three outsider candidates, and his biggest rivals, peter out ...
[Cruz Spokesman Rick] Tyler sees the GOP primary electorate as four distinct “brackets” of voters — libertarian, evangelical, Tea Party, and establishment candidates — and it’s clear that Cruz continues to make a play for all but the latter.
While Cruz might be the last libertarian standing (edging out Senator Rand Paul) and last evangelical stalwart (Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum), but can he really outlast the three outsiders, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson, all of whom are consistently polling first to fourth. I can't see all three fading in the next four months.

Gordon Tullock
Here is the "Unofficial Website for the Gordon Tullock Memorial Conference Papers," which has links to many of the papers presented at the Tullock conference this past weekend. I started with Stefan Voight's "A Loose-Cannon Iconoclast in Action? - Tullock’s Contribution to Law & Economics," which covers his approach to the law (lawyer- and judge-based systems) and some possible reforms. Michael Munger and Georg Vanberg examine Tullock's influence on political science.

No this isn't against the law
Not-funny comedienne Sarah Silverman tweets support for the NDP and an NDP candidate and the Toronto Star reports she might have broken the elections law which forbids foreigners from influencing Canadian elections. Technically she could face a six-month jail term or a $5,000 fine, but realistically the law tries to prevent something more serious than a call-out on social media. Saying it applies to Twitter is nonsense.
The Conservative reaction to this story is predictably dumb, with the Star reporting:
Erinn Broshko, the Conservative candidate for Vancouver Granville, issued a statement criticizing the New Democrats for Silverman’s post.
“Unlike the NDP, we’re focused on engaging with Canadians who are living, working and raising their families in Vancouver Granville,” Broshko said.
The local NDP candidate is not "focused" on garnering foreign endorsements. This whole story is a non-controversy. In the dead-tree edition of the paper, the story and photo take up one-third of the page.

The former teacher corrects work of staff, staff suggests that makes him prime ministerial

Even Althia Raj is asking tough questions about Trudeau Liberals

Is TPP a game-changer? And will the Liberals pander to Canadian fears?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is now finalized and it will be good for the Canadian economy, but how will it affect the federal election? The Conservatives seem to think it will buttress their smooth, competent economic leadership credentials. The NDP said they will not enact the trade deal if they form government, which could help them with the anti-Harper crowd. How much of an issue it is might depend on the Liberal response; so far they've taken their typical position on top of the fence as Justin Trudeau says the Liberals will have to evaluate the deal once it becomes public. On its face, that is fair, even sensible. But the jaded cynics among us presume that means their calculation will be based on politics not the economic merits of the TPP.
Free trade, of course, is not just about economics, but national identity, including fears and aspirations. Whatever the Liberal reaction will be, the wild card is how will Canadians line up? It is easy to demagogue trade agreements because people are generally misinformed about free trade so there are is a wide range of possible reactions.
It is also paradoxical that the NDP, which wants to welcome foreigners to Canada, is not interested in welcoming foreign goods which helps foreign workers. Fear of free trade is as xenophobic as fear of immigration.
Will Justin Trudeau and the Liberals pander to Canadian fears about foreign competition or will they welcome cheaper goods and services for millions of Canadian consumers?

Is it a dirty trick to quote someone accurately?
The Winnipeg Free Press reports on a fake flyer targeting NDP MP and Winnipeg Centre Pat Martin:
Fake flyers in NDP MP Pat Martin’s name, one laced with profanities, are headed for an official investigation with a federal elections commissioner, Martin’s campaign manager said Sunday.
The flyers, including one laced with four-letter swear words, appeared in the Winnipeg Centre federal riding under Martin’s official letterhead last Friday.
They were written in an apparent effort to discredit the NDP MP and mock the party’s political platform, Martin campaign manager Lorraine Sigurdson said Sunday.
Neither of them is legitimate.
The flyer features past salty quotes from Martin like "rat face whore," "slut," and "fucking bastards." Pat Martin such a charming fellow.

Does anyone have a Trudeau-Liberal priority count?
This is becoming Paul Martinesque.

TPP to be completed as early as today
The Wall Street Journal reports that negotiations on a deal on the Trans Pacific Partnership could be concluded today. This is significant for Canadians -- and hypocritical on the part of Americans:
Canada and Japan are expected to increase access to their tightly controlled dairy markets, but New Zealand wants the U.S. to provide significant access, too. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), two key lawmakers overseeing trade policy, have insisted that dairy producers in their states gain more access to Canadian consumers. U.S. lawmakers don’t want to make it too easy for New Zealand to sell more dairy products in the U.S. because it could threaten less-competitive U.S. dairy farms.
I expect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to announce a generous buy-out package for dairy farmers to phase out their quotas and possibly new programs to retrain workers displaced in the auto sector.

Public health as social crusaders
Pierre Lemieux has an excellent article on "The Dangers of Public Health," in the current edition of the Cato Institute's Regulation magazine. He argues that public health departments are more concerned about politics than health, and this usually result in a diminution of liberty: "Public health experts and activists are prone to invoke 'science' as an ex cathedra criterion for forcing choices on others." The article is worth reading in its entirety, and the public must remember that so-called disinterested experts usually aren't.

Psychological suffering and euthanasia
Dr. David Gratzer looks at a Belgian study that examines 100 cases in which patients requesting euthanasia based on psychological suffering. As always, Gratzer does a good job summarizing the study, and he has some broad conclusions (without suggesting a position on the issue):
As I’ve already noted, the topic is clearly relevant. In Carter v. Canada, the Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that doctor-assisted suicide should be legal if “the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition… that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual…” As with the phrase “unbearable and untreatable,” it’s difficult to see how this phrase would exclude those with psychiatric illness.
... In other words, the larger debate about doctor-assisted suicide has the potential to re-shape psychiatry.
I'm not sure how people with mental illness are deemed competent to make the decision to be euthanized, but so-called safeguards that require competency come into, at the very least, question when considering unbearable psychological pain.

Sunday, October 04, 2015
Liberal rhetoric
Justin Trudeau once again today trotted out his line "We have a chance to prove that fear and division won't work here, not in Canada!" He's been using the fear and division line all year. What he calls fear and division are simply differences of opinion. Progressives have a hard time understanding how anyone could hold a different opinion, so they demean opposing views as illicit.
Attacking opposing views as fear and division, is itself a form of fear and division, attempting to label holders of certain views as bigots and making them fearful to express them.
Liberal Party policy and Trudeau platitudes are not the only legitimate views Canadians may hold.

Politicians will act politically
Huffington Post reports that 19 of the 20 MPs who spent the most on 10 percenters are Conservatives (the other is NDP) and all of them are in so-called battleground ridings in Ontario and British Columbia. (If you count Lisa Raitt as being in a battleground riding.) Ten percenters are legal but ethically dubious taxpayer-funded political mailings distinct from householders, which are used to target specific voters over particular issues. Ideally the practice of 10 percenters would be banned, but they aren't so the political parties that are best at targeting their messages are usually the ones who send out the most.

2016 watch (HRC edition)
It's not a good reason to vote Hillary Clinton, but can you think of another one?

Natural science is endlessly interesting. And human beings even more so.
George Will:
Our wee solar system is an infinitesimally small smudge among uncountable billions of galaxies, each with uncountable billions of stars. Our Milky Way galaxy, where we live, probably has 40 billion planets approximately Earth’s size. Looking at the sky through a drinking straw, the spot you see contains 10,000 galaxies. Yet the cosmos is not crowded: If there were just three bees in America, the air would be more congested with bees than space is with stars. Matter, however, is not all that matters.
And Will on the James Webb Space Telescope being developed at Johns Hopkins University:
Webb will not shed light on two interesting questions: How many universes are there? Is everything the result of a meaningless cosmic sneeze, or of an intentional First Cause? Webb will, however, express our species’ dignity as curious creatures.

Saturday, October 03, 2015
Regulation prevents markets from transmitting information
Adam Millsap, a research fellow for the State and Local Policy Project with the Mercatus Center, at Inside Sources, on one (under-appreciated) reason regulations hamper economic growth:
Economists have long maintained that profit and loss are important signals, which relay information about the most efficient use of scarce resources. Like losses, firm failures also serve a useful function. A recent study in the Journal of Regional Science finds evidence that both firm openings and closings positively affect subsequent entrepreneurship and employment growth in metropolitan areas. The researchers contend that firm closings — when combined with new openings — transmit valuable information to future entrepreneurs about the local economic environment such as the level of demand, availability of financing, and quality of the labor force.
The more information prospective entrepreneurs have, the less likely they are to err, which increases their chance of success. This conclusion is probably not surprising to anyone who has ever learned what not to do by watching someone else make a mistake.
Regulations at both the federal and local level can prevent the information transmitted by firm openings and closings from ever materializing. This is because many regulations act as a barrier to entry that prevents entrepreneurs from ever serving a single customer. We can never know how many potential entrepreneurs have tried to start a business, only to run into some regulatory hurdle that made it impractical to continue. This type of “failure” is unseen and as such it doesn’t provide the same level of information to other entrepreneurs that traditional failures do.
Failure is an important aspect of markets, but regulations prevent new firms from entering into the marketplace thus limiting the amount of information that successful and failing firms can provide other entrepreneurs. I would add that regulations also keep some companies in business, therefore incentivizing sub-optimal investments in what should be failing businesses.

Cheering for Liberals or NDP, at least conditionally
I hope that Jennifer Hollett beats Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland in University-Rosedale. The less Freeland on TV talking about the economy, the better.
If the NDP were to form government, I would hope Liberal MP Adam Vaughan beats Olivia Chow in Spadina-Fort York because Chow would be a terrible cabinet minister, although it is difficult to imagine the NDP winning government while losing Spadina-Fort York. But if the Conservatives form government, I want Vaughan defeated, because he's only marginally less annoying that Freeland.
I'll take either the NDP or Bloc Quebecois in Papineau.
I'm going to give this more thought because there are certainly many ridings where the lesser evil must be cheered for.

The Bet
Alex Epstein talks to Pierre Desrochers about the 25th anniversary the bet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon. It's worth a listen.
I reviewed Paul Sabin's The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future last year for The Interim. Ehrlich's bet reinforces the notion posted earlier today that The Left hates, or at least, distrusts markets. Julian Simon had faith in both markets and people -- but I repeat myself because what are markets but the actions and decisions of billions of individuals?

There is no non-political argument against marketing boards
The Globe and Mail has a conversation with three economists (Eveline Adomait, Jack Mintz, and Christopher Ragan) about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (and the most recent GDP numbers), and all three economists agree that marketing boards need to go. Mintz summarizes the case against quite nicely:
Supply management is like putting an excise tax on necessities – eggs, poultry and milk – and it hits low- and modest-income Canadians the hardest. Parties that seem so concerned about income inequality should be ashamed of themselves for supporting this policy. The argument that this is better than subsidies is callous given that this is a large transfer to a few firms covered by a regressive ‘tax.’ Australia has shown that supply management can be phased out by reimbursing those farmers who are affected with a tax on the product. With lower dairy and other prices, we could spawn export-oriented products quite successfully once input prices fall.
And here's Adomait:
The bottom line is that agricultural supply management, taxi medallions, the bridge to the U.S. at Windsor, the Beer Store and the LCBO are all making higher profits because they are monopolies.
The leaders of the five major political parties all publicly support marketing boards, siding with a small number of (mostly wealthy) farmers over every single consumer in Canada. Rob Silver once called marketing boards evil, and he's right. Any system that rewards well-connected suppliers at the expense of millions of low- and middle-income consumers is evil. No party that purports to care for the poor can defend this system, although the NDP and Liberals both do. (Hence, they don't really care for the poor.)

Against compulsory voting
At the Princeton University Press blog, Jason Brennan (author of, among other books, The Ethics of Voting), refutes William Galston's recent argument for mandatory voting. Brennan makes the case that moral goods should not be enforced, that compulsory voting doesn't achieve the social or political goods that advocates claim, and that the freedom to do something should imply the freedom to abstain. He will be expanding on some of these ideas in a future post.

Left and right explained
Bryan Caplan:
1. Leftists are anti-market. On an emotional level, they're critical of market outcomes. No matter how good market outcomes are, they can't bear to say, "Markets have done a great job, who could ask for more?"
2. Rightists are anti-leftist. On an emotional level, they're critical of leftists. No matter how much they agree with leftists on an issue, they can't bear to say, "The left is totally right, it would be churlish to criticize them."
Yes, this story is uncharitable and simplistic. But clarifying.
This is the best summary of the two sides of the political spectrum I've seen. If you want to add depth to the summary, you could say Leftists are reflexively anti-tradition and that rightists are reflexively anti-science.
Comments are worth reading; I found this one funny: "Capitalism cause leftists."

Friday, October 02, 2015
Trudeau isn't good with facts

Conservatives need their own online infrastructure not more right-wing news sites/aggregators
Mark Steyn:
During her visit to New York for the grand UN dictators' ball, Angela Merkel was overheard rebuking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for permitting people to post "anti-immigrant" sentiments on social media ...
The very small cartel that run "social media" worldwide are increasingly hostile to free speech outside of a limited and largely trivial number of subjects. Ours will be the first civilization to slide off the cliff while watching cat videos.
Kathy Shaidle linked to the Steyn post at Five Feet of Fury, introducing it thusly: "Say, are you sick of me screaming that, instead of one more goddamn ‘conservative’ ‘news’ site ... we need to invest in conservative/libertarian-friendly social media platforms not run by our enemies — or more accurately, we should have done that ten years ago?"
Shaidle is correct. So if there is a very wealthy conservative/libertarian who wants to promote the cause of liberty ... there's a need for a right-wing Twitter/Facebook/YouTube.
For those insistent on providing right-wing content, the niche, as noted by Instapundit last year, is women's magazines.

Posted without comment

Infrastructure is meaningless
Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has a good column in the Toronto Sun on how the overuse of the term infrastructure in Canadian political discourse:
One thing most commentators seem to agree on is: infrastructure. Canada could use more of it. Both individuals and businesses would probably enjoy having better roads, bridges and transit, for example. But a funny thing happened once everyone agreed that “infrastructure” was a good thing. Politicians starting appropriating the word to use as shorthand for “anything we want to spend money on.”
Gone are the days where “infrastructure” simply meant roads, bridges, hospitals and power lines.
According to the Liberal election plan, for example, “infrastructure” is either public transit, “social infrastructure” or “green infrastructure.”
That's just rhetoric. But even with regard to traditional infrastructure, politicians should be required to spell out very specifically what they want to build, how much it'll cost, give realistic timelines, and justify the need. That won't happen. Justin Trudeau says a Liberal government will double infrastructure spending over the next decade, but is that even possible without redefining infrastructure? Without a redefinition are there enough projects ready to go in the next 3-5 years (with the requisite approval process) and construction workers. Doubling funding for projects is huge. But is it doable?
Just as any spending can be sold as "investment" so, too, can it be trotted out as "infrastructure" -- a good and important justification for government spending that cannot be resisted without supposedly risking the future of the country.

Gatorade is big business
Good article at on the how the creators of Gatorade, their families, and the University of Florida, have been compensated with more than $1 billion in royalties since 1967. Interesting details of the business of Gatorade, which has revenues of more than $5 billion each year.

Stats and graphs
This, from Max Roser, is a month old, but worth noting again and again.

Jack Kemp's lesson for today
David Smick, who served as Jack Kemp's chief of staff, reviews Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke's Jack Kemp: The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Kemp was a supply-sider who detested his party's "southern strategy" and any perceived slight to blacks. Smick says:
To kill the slight chance that the young congressman might also run, Kemp had been asked to become the Reagan campaign’s lead policy adviser and economics spokesman. For several months, he had close access to Reagan and preached the supply-sider’s gospel. The “welfare queen”—a black woman in Chicago who fraudulently collected $150,000 a year—had been a centerpiece of Reagan’s 1976 campaign and still lingered in 1979 as he prepared for another run. Kemp questioned the economic relevance of the story and detested its racial implications. I was present during one blistering exchange when Kemp demanded that Reagan stop making references to the welfare queen. Make the message restoring the American dream, Kemp yelled; growth is everything. Reagan agreed.
A positive message of restoring the American dream after 16 years of Barack Obama and George W. Bush should resonate, and focusing on economic growth will help spread the American dream more broadly. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are battling to become Reagan's -- and Kemp's -- heir. The one who does has the better chance of living in the residence that Reagan spent eight years in.

Operation Tinfoil
J.J. McCullough is up to 71 reasons not to vote for Elizabeth May and her Green Party. Just 71? And 70 more than is necessary. Liz May is not a serious adult.

Thursday, October 01, 2015
Darrell Bricker on everything that needs to be said about the politics of the niqab
Three tweets collated by Small Dead Animals.

If I was a good teacher, it was because I had a great student

Stupid/great story
The Toronto Sun: "Julian Fantino charged with assault over 1973 arrest: Suit alleges former chief smeared ketchup on man's behind." It took me a minute to remember that there is no statute of limitations in Canada for crimes more serious than summary conviction offences. Several thoughts/reminders: 1) it's a four-decade old allegation, 2) these are privately laid chargers, 3) nothing is proven in court, 4) that doesn't matter politically, 5) it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

2016 watch (Bloomberg edition)
The Washington Examiner's Byron York reports:
[I]t was striking Wednesday that Mike Allen, Politico's well-connected chief political reporter, devoted not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but six paragraphs of his newsletter to the virtually nonexistent presidential prospects of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In an item headlined "The Conversation," Allen wrote that the billionaire businessman "has gotten a new surge of pleas to run for president over the past month, making him the most-buzzed-about current non-candidate whose name isn't Joe Biden." Allen reported that Bloomberg is "politely waving off" entreaties that he run, but that he could change his mind.
York quotes Republican strategist Alex Castellanos: "Michael Bloomberg is a solution in search of a problem ... There is no demand in the electorate for a third party candidate." Agreed. That probably won't change, but could, sometime next summer. York notes that the "buzz" around the Bloomberg candidacy is pretty thin. Remember that strategists want more candidates because it's more business. Pundits want more candidates because it's something new to talk about. But voters? Probably not.

Winnipeg Free Press
Their stock is down to 45-cents a share and their market cap is $3.38 million. Still sounds like too much.
(Via John Collison)

I wish they'd frame the question this way

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Doesn't fit the narrative

Justin Trudeau on pot: "right away" when asked when an elected Liberal government would legalize marijuana. There goes any chance of the Liberals winning Peel Region.

2016 watch (Clinton edition)
Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of, dissects Lena Dunham's interview with Hillary Clinton, and concludes:
Ultimately, what comes across is the rather unexpected and unarticulated revelation that America is in fact a much better place than it was 40 or 50 years ago when it comes to treating people as individuals.
Oddly, though, that also undercuts one of Clinton's easiest appeals to voters: We can make history by electing our first woman president. Instead, the focus will be on her record, her policies, and her ideas for the future. That's exactly as it should be, even if it helps explain why Clinton is dazzling fewer and fewer people even in her own party.

Hidden agenda
A few days ago William Watson wrote in the Ottawa Citizen that the real hidden agenda of 2015 is how would either a Liberal or NDP regime govern after it enacts the platform upon which it is running. Good question. Here's my answer: there will be few business or right-wing Liberals in caucus if they win, so it'll probably follow the progressive-dream agenda Trudeau is laying out which is far to the left where the NDP are campaigning. Tom Mulcair, however, will have to contend with a nutty left-wing caucus whose demands for radical programs will be hard for him to resist.