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, August 22, 2014
Best The Simpsons politics
To mark the beginning of FXX's The Simpsons marathan (all 522 episodes plus movie in chronological order), National Review has a slide show of "The Simpsons Get Political." The best political commentary in The Simpsons is when the teachers go on strike and a town hall meeting witnesses the descent of political debate from reasoned argument to gestures.

Chris Rock on 'how to not get your ass kicked by the police'
Video is NSFW. Start with "obey the law" and "just use common sense."

On this day in Canadian history
On August 22, 1935, William Aberhart leads the Social Credit to victory over the incumbent United Farmers government in the Alberta provincial election to become the world's first Social Credit government. The Social Credit Party won 56 of 63 seats with 54% of the vote, while the UF went from 39 seats to none. Under Aberhart and Ernest Manning, the Socreds stayed in power until 1971.

Best The Simpsons geek episodes
To mark the beginning of FXX's The Simpsons marathan (all 522 episodes plus movie in chronological order), Popular Mechanics has the "Essential Geek Episodes of The Simpsons."

2016 watch (Hillary Clinton edition)
Peter Beinart in The Atlantic on why Hillary Clinton might not face a formidable opponent: "given the Clintons' reputation for retaliating for betrayals, it's just not worth it in 2016." Beinart says:
The winning-by-losing strategy works best when it gains you some influence over the person who defeats you for the nomination. Sometimes that means earning a place alongside them on the presidential ticket, as Edwards did in 2004. Sometimes it simply means convincing their supporters that you have a bright future and may be worth supporting down the line. The strategy works less well if the person who defeats you becomes your sworn enemy, committed to doing you political harm. It’s the fear that the Clintons may do exactly that that is limiting the pool of willing challengers.
And for good reason. Throughout their careers, Bill and Hillary Clinton have shown a willingness to remember, and punish, political betrayals. In 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter sent some of the Cuban refugees who had arrived in the United States as part of the Mariel boatlift to Arkansas. Held in prison-like conditions, the detainees rioted and some escaped, which ensured Clinton’s reelection defeat as Arkansas governor. As Carl Bernstein details in A Woman in Charge, the Clintons retaliated more than a decade later by refusing to give anyone in Carter’s inner circle a job in the Clinton White House. In their book HRC, Jonathan Allen and Aimee Parnes note that in 2012, Bill Clinton repeatedly intervened in Democratic primaries to help candidates who had backed Hillary against rivals who had backed Barack Obama—thus reminding Democrats that opposing Hillary carries a price.
According to Bob Boorstin, who ran communications for Hillary’s health-care task force, when Hillary is slighted, “she gets angry, and she remembers it forever.” When people prove loyal, by contrast, they reap rewards. As Allen and Parnes put it, “Loyalty, for better and worse, has been the defining trait of Hillary and her tightly woven inner circle, from her days as first lady through the Senate and State.”

Thinking of moving you might want to check out these lists
Business Insider: "The 10 Most Livable Cities In The World." Canada and Australia are well represented. There is also "The 11 Least 'Livable' Cities In The World," which includes seven African cities.
BuzzFeed: "What Kind Of Home You Can Buy For $300,000 Around The Country."

Medicare: Big and ripe for fraud
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
The Government Accountability Office believes fraud was involved in 8% of all Medicare spending in 2012, or $44 billion. It calls Medicare a sieve, a high-risk program vulnerable to "fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement."
The fraud, waste and abuse is probably worse. Nicole Kaeding at the Cato Institute pointed out Tuesday that Malcolm Sparrow, a Harvard public management professor, estimates that closer to 20% of annual Medicare claims are improper.
That means that of the $600 billion the program spends in a year, as much as $120 billion is frittered away in scams, deceptions and swindles. Some analysts believe Medicaid fraud is about as bad.

The Obama(care)conomy
Obamacare is a job-killer. Jed Graham in Investor`s Business Daily:
ObamaCare may be among the reasons why the economic recovery is still searching for its third gear, suggest Federal Reserve surveys of businesses in five states.
While the law hasn't prevented solid job growth this year, it appears to have slowed gains at a sizable minority of firms.
In a Philadelphia Fed survey of regional manufacturers out Thursday, 18% said they employ fewer workers due to the Affordable Care Act than they would in its absence ...
Further, 18% said part-timers make up a greater share of workers due to ObamaCare, which absolves employers of responsibility for health care for those who work fewer than 30 hours a week ...
The New York Fed released two surveys on Monday showing that 22% of manufacturing and 17% of service firms are carrying fewer workers in response to ObamaCare. The part-time share of the workforce is higher at about 20% of firms in each sector and lower at about 5%.

Thursday, August 21, 2014
California women's college to enroll dudes
Campus Reform reports:
Mills College, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, approved a new policy that lets applicants who self-identify as women enroll, making it the first single-sex college to let applicants specifically pick their gender.
“Mills shall not discriminate against applicants whose gender identity does not match their legally assigned sex,” the policy states. “Students who self-identify as female are eligible to apply for undergraduate admission. This includes students who were not assigned to the female sex at birth but live and identify as women at the time of applications. It also includes students who are legally assigned to the female sex, but who identify as transgender or gender fluid.”
(HT: My summer intern)

An example of the broken window fallacy (Somalia TV sales edition)
The Associated Press reports that TV sales are "booming in Somalia, in part because of fears by people of gathering in public places like restaurants that are targeted for deadly attacks by the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab." Even though service providers have to hire more technicians, the fact that movie theatres are being shuttered and people are avoiding going outside cannot be good for society or the economy.
* This broken window fallacy, not the broken window theory of fighting crime.

Such exquisite sensitivity to BS will serve these young journalists well in the future
NRO's Katherine Timpf reports:
A Virginia university has decided to stop calling its newspaper “The Bullet” over concerns that the name was so insensitive and inappropriate that it could even make people violent.
The University of Mary Washington’s 96-year-old newspaper will now be called The Blue and Gray Press.
“The editorial board felt that the paper’s name, which alludes to ammunition for an artillery weapon, propagated violence and did not honor our school’s history in a sensitive manner,” newspaper staff said in a release issued Monday.
(HT: Small Dead Animals)

Milking Layton's death to create a new generation of young socialists
An email from the NDP:
Tomorrow, on the third anniversary of Jack Layton’s passing, a special memorial celebration will be hosted by Ryerson University – and you’re invited to attend.
In his letter to Canadians in 2011, Jack wrote: “Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me.”
Ryerson’s upcoming memorial tribute is titled Living Jack’s Legacy: Young Canadians Inspired by Jack Layton ...
Friday August 22, 12:30pm–2 pm
A lunch reception will begin at 1:30pm
Sears Atrium, George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre
Ryerson University
245 Church Street, Toronto
Young, engaged Canadians will speak about Jack’s influence, and the path it led them on. There will also be music and guests sharing memorable moments.
This event is organized by the Jack Layton Chair at Ryerson, Professor Myer Siemiatycki, with members of the Layton family in attendance.

There are almost no hate crimes in Washington DC and most race-based hate crimes are against whites
The Washington Times reports:
Race-based hate crimes jumped in Washington, D.C., last year even as most other types of bias crimes decreased, with analysts saying such incidents could be vastly underreported among minority groups uncomfortable coming forward to authorities.
D.C. police say that of the 18 race-based hate crimes in 2013, the majority of victims were white and the majority of suspects black. The number of incidents was up from the 13 race-based bias crimes reported in 2012 ...
The number of hate crimes reported in the District fell overall from 81 in 2012 to 70 in 2013.
There are twice as many whites as blacks making complaints about hate crimes (despite the fact that Washington is almost 50% black). The Anti-Defamation League assumes it is because visible minorities do not trust the police and won't make complaints.
The takeaway about these numbers is actually that there is no need for hate crime laws.

Civil forfeiture is a government racket
Marni Soupcoff of the Canadian Constitution Foundation has a column in the National Post that describes how even those individuals the courts do not find guilty (or wouldn't find guilty due to standards of evidence) are susceptible to having their assets seized by the government. That is wrong enough. But worse, the government justifies such practices claiming the proceeds go to victims of crime; however, about as much money is given back to police forces as crime victims in Ontario. As Soupcoff observes, this "creates unhealthy incentives for law enforcement to 'police for profit'." The CCF is working on behalf of individuals wrongly targeted by these laws and is trying to publicize the injustice. They deserve your support.

Transparency fail
Steve Forbes notes that a U.S. government transparency project underreports spending by $619 billion:
Seven years ago, the Office of Management and Budget launched to let the public easily track how their tax dollars were spent on contracts, grants, loans and other spending. It was supposed to be a big win for open government. Except when the Government Accountability Office checked to see how well it tracked spending in 2012, it found the site to be less than useless.
The audit found that out of the roughly $1 trillion federal agencies spent in these areas that year, $619 billion of it didn’t get reported to the site. The biggest offender was Health and Human Services, which failed to report $544 billion in spending on programs like Medicare. Veterans Affairs came in second with $64 billion in unreported spending. The Interior Department finished third at $5.3 billion. The White House itself failed to report $247 million worth of 2012 spending.
In addition, the GAO found that only 2% to 7% of the reports that were filed contained complete and accurate data.

Best The Simpsons sports moments
To mark the beginning of FXX's The Simpsons marathan (all 522 episodes plus movie in chronological order), Sports on Earth "highlight some of the funniest sports moments in the series' history."

The (non) limits of government
George Will notes:
Swollen government has a shriveled brain: By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. So it smears mine-resistant armored vehicles and other military marvels across 435 congressional districts because it can.
And instead of making immigration policy serve the nation's values and labor needs, government, egged on by conservatives, aspires to emulate East Germany along the Rio Grande, spending scores of billions to militarize a border bristling with hardware bought by previous scores of billions.
Much of this is justified by America's longest losing "war," the one on drugs. Is it, however, necessary for NASA to have its own SWAT team?
A cupcake-policing government will find unending excuses for flexing its muscles as it minutely monitors our behavior in order to improve it, as Debra Harrell, 46, a South Carolina single mother, knows. She was jailed for "unlawful neglect" of her 9-year-old daughter when she left her, with a cellphone, to play in a park while she worked at a nearby McDonald's ...
Darin Simak, a first-grader in New Kensington, Pa., who accidentally brought a toy gun to school, turned it in to his teacher. School administrators then suspended him because the school has a "zero-tolerance policy."
What children frequently learn at schools is that schools often are run by biological adults incapable of common-sensical judgments.
Government ends up doing a lot, way too much, in fact, and none of it very well. Seeing government perform mostly poorly reduces confidence in government. This has consequences:
Americans, inundated with evidence government is becoming dumber and more presumptuous, think it can't be trusted to decipher foreign problems and use force intelligently.
And yet Americans still demand more government and will not let it`s elected officials reduce the size of the state -- a point Will does not make.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
It is back to school time so get ready for retarded suspensions of students
Robby Soave in Hit & Run:
Summerville High School in Summerville, South Carolina, is wasting no time: A 16-year-old student was arrested and suspended for writing a story in which he used a gun to kill a dinosaur. The student, Alex Stone, was assigned by a teacher to write a story about himself. Stone chose to embellish his story with obviously fictional details, like dinosaurs. But the teacher saw the word "gun" and the rest is history.
Arrested and suspended. So not only is the teacher and principal and school acting without any common sense, so are the police.

Obama and Holder won't level with U.S. blacks
Ricochet's Paul Rahe:
If Barack Obama and Eric Holder were actually interested in the welfare of the likes of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, they would level with their fellow African-Americans. They would initiate a genuinely frank conversation about race aimed at altering African-American conduct. As things stand, they are only interested in manipulating African-American fear and anger for short-term political gain — and the same can be said for the scoundrels (largely white) who manage CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Pravda-on-the-Hudson, and Pravda-on-the-Potomac and who treat the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown as national news. Apart from Jason Riley (and Bill Cosby), there are only a handful of African-Americans who care enough about the welfare of their fellow African-Americans to have the courage to level with them and there are even fewer whites (liberal or conservative). In the mainstream media the former are treated as traitors to their race and the latter are demonized as racists.
Fear advances the cause of liberalism, not truth.

Bringing free trade to Canada
CBC: "James Moore pitches changes to interprovincial trade." The CBC reports:
Industry Minister James Moore has released potential options for reforming trade between provinces, including throwing out the current Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT).
The recommendations come ahead of the meeting of Canada's premiers in P.E.I. next week ...
The first option calls for simplification of the "web of rules" that businesses face, modernization of government procurement to make it more open and creating a more comprehensive AIT.
The second proposes a redesign of the internal trade framework in Canada, similar to the basis of Canada's most recent international trade agreements.
This is long overdue, but James Moore and the federal government will have to show real leadership on the issue. Provincial premiers can be expected to give lip service to some liberalization but stand firm under the guise of consumer protection in order to protect vested interests within their provinces.

When the makers become takers
The Wall Street Journal: "Aging Americans Boost Share of Population Who Receive Government Benefits." The WSJ reports:
Nearly half of Americans, 49.5%, lived in a household where at least one person was receiving some type of government benefit in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Census Department data. That number ticked up slightly from 49.2% at the end of 2011 ...
But from 2011 to 2012, that picture may be shifting. In late 2012, 35.4% of Americans lived in a home that received help from a means-tested, poverty-assistance program. That number didn’t budge from 2011.
In fact, the slight uptick from 2011 appears to be mostly due to the aging population in the U.S. Some 16.8% of Americans resided in a household receiving Social Security benefits at the end of 2012, up from 16.3% a year earlier. And 15.8% of Americans lived in a home tapping Medicare benefits, up from 15.1% a year earlier.
Blame baby boomers.

Taxpayers subsidizing NFL owner billionaires
Gregg Easterbrook on the Buffalo Bills and a taxpayer-funded stadium that might keep the team in western New York:
The question is whether a new owner who keeps the Bills in Buffalo should get public subsidies for a new stadium. The ideal situation would be that the new owner pays for a new stadium. The notion that government should pay for pro sports facilities might have made sense in the 1960s, when there was hardly any money in sports; it makes little sense today when the NFL wallows in greenbacks. But if the question comes up, should government reach into the pockets of taxpayers to buy the Bills a new facility?
Wilson told me in 2009 that it was unrealistic to expect the city of Buffalo or surrounding Erie County to fund a new stadium for the Bills, owing to the area's weak tax base. So should Albany pay? The state of New York just finished pumping $90 million forcibly removed from taxpayers' pockets into upgrades to the Bills' current facility. The upgrades will increase concession revenue, meaning Empire State taxpayers who live far from Buffalo and may not care one whit about sports already have been taxed to make the Bills more profitable. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in June there would be further subsidies only if Buffalo really needs a new stadium, "which I am not convinced of."
The new owner is likely to be a billionaire. Why should taxpayers with a median household income of $54,000 be compelled to give a new stadium to a billionaire who will keep all profit the facility generates? As happened, say, with billionaire Paul Allen and CenturyLink Field, where the defending champion Seahawks perform. There, Washington state taxpayers were compelled to foot the cost, and Allen keeps nearly all the profit.
Right now, political pressure is building for a taxpayer-funded new stadium as part of the franchise sale. Roger Goodell has lobbied Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer to compel taxpayers to provide a new stadium for the Bills. The NFL takes in only $10 billion a year and enjoys federal tax and property tax exemptions -- it couldn't possibly afford to pay! Goodell pays himself only $44.2 million a year for running a "nonprofit" -- Goodell couldn't possibly be expected to reduce his personal windfall to help finance a stadium!
Worried he will take the blame if the Bills move -- and needing to divert attention from his considerable ethical problems -- Cuomo now says the state "would be interested" in funding a new stadium if that kept the Bills in Buffalo. That is easy for the governor to say, since taxpayers, not him, will be the ones handed the invoice. How could a huge subsidy for the super-profitable NFL be justified when the state is cutting funding from public schools? (Look up "Gap Elimination Adjustment.") ...
Easterbrook explains that publicly funded stadia seldom provide the sort of benefits touted by politicians (and their crony capitalist beneficiaries):
Judith Grant Long, an urban planning professor at Harvard, has shown that about 70 percent of the cost of building and operating NFL stadia has been paid by taxpayers -- many not even sports fans. About 95 percent of the revenue the stadia generate is kept by team owners. It's a deeply disturbing arrangement. Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College, has shown that NFL investments never generate the promised job totals or local economic activity. If there's public money to spend in Buffalo, investments in infrastructure -- schools, transportation, a replacement for the dilapidated Peace Bridge, improving Delaware Park -- would have more of an economic multiplier effect than an NFL field.
Easterbrook says with certain conditions, a state-funded stadium could make sense in Buffalo and at a lower cost than the billion dollars being talked about (due to property and demolition costs in depressed downtown Buffalo).
Meanwhile in Jacksonville:
Some 52,000 people came to the Jaguars' stadium just to watch the new scoreboard unveiled. Most likely the crowd was not told that Jacksonville taxpayers paid $43 million for the scoreboard and miscellaneous stadium improvements, while Jax billionaire owner Shad Khan contributed only $20 million. Obviously diverting public money to an NFL owner's private profit is more important than improving Jacksonville public schools.

On this day in Canadian history
On August 20, 1976, Gordon Lightfoot released his single, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," from the album Summertime Dream, about the freighter that sank on Lake Superior in 1975. The song reached #2 on the Billboard charts. The song has been covered by the Rheostatics and the Dandy Warhols.

A computer scientist, economist, engineer, mathematician, and physicist split a cheque
I found this extremely funny. I have had conversations pretty similar to portions of this.
A snippet:
Economist: Forget it. Taxes are inefficient, anyway. They create deadweight loss.
Mathematician: There you go again…
Economist: I mean it! If there were no taxes, I would have ordered a second soda. But instead, the government intervened, and by increasing transaction costs, prevented an exchange that would have benefited both me and the restaurant.
Engineer: You did order a second soda.
Economist: In practice, yes. But my argument still holds in theory.

How dangerous is it to be a cop?
Daniel J. Brier in The Freeman:
In 2013, out of 900,000 sworn officers, just 100 died from a job-related injury. That's about 11.1 per 100,000, or a rate of 0.001%.
Policing doesn't even make it into the top 10 most dangerous American professions. Logging has a fatality rate 11 times higher, at 127.8 per 100,000. Fishing: 117 per 100,000. Pilot/flight engineer: 53.4 per 100,000. It's twice as dangerous to be a truck driver as a cop—at 22.1 per 100,000.
Another point to bear in mind is that not all officer fatalities are homicides. Out of the 100 deaths in 2013, 31 were shot, 11 were struck by a vehicle, 2 were stabbed, and 1 died in a "bomb-related incident." Other causes of death were: aircraft accident (1), automobile accident (28), motorcycle accident (4), falling (6), drowning (2), electrocution (1), and job-related illness (13).
Even assuming that half these deaths were homicides, policing would have a murder rate of 5.55 per 100,000, comparable to the average murder rate of U.S. cities: 5.6 per 100,000. It's more dangerous to live in Baltimore (35.01 murders per 100,000 residents) than to be a cop in 2014.
Brier later corrects his estimate that half of these deaths are homicides; the average rate for homicides is about one-third, not one half.
Also, the trajectory of job-related deaths for police has been in steady decline since the early 1970s and is less than half the rate of the late 1920s and 1930s.

Incredible Detroit fact
Mark J. Perry tweets: "The average price of a house in Detroit ($28,000) is less than the average price of a new car ($32,500)."

This book is now on my to-read list
Tevi Troy reviews Politics Is a Joke!: How TV Comedians Are Remaking Political Life by S. Robert Lichter, Jody C Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris for the Wall Street Journal:
"Politics Is a Joke!" tells the history of late-night shows, beginning in the early 1960s, when Carson took over "The Tonight Show" from Jack Paar, and traces these shows' growing influence on the fortunes of politicians, especially as programs like "Saturday Night Live" (which began airing in 1975) and Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" (1993) came on the air. The authors, all academics, have also compiled and analyzed more than 100,000 political jokes told by late-night comedians over the last 20 years. Thus, alongside entertaining anecdotes about politicians' appearances, there are serious discussions of weighted averages, statistical significance and standardized beta coefficients.
Conservatives and Republicans have long griped that late-night hosts are by and large liberal, and the book's balanced and exacting authors have the numbers and figures to back this up. In every election since 1992, the GOP presidential nominee has been the butt of more jokes than the Democrat. Overall, the authors "coded nearly twice as many jokes about Republicans as about Democrats." As they put it: "an unexpected finding was that Republican candidates were joked about more than Democrats." Unexpected? Not for anyone who watches TV. Nevertheless, it is good to have the numbers to prove the point.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Bizarro politics in New Brunswick
The Canadian Press reports that all three major party leaders are highlighting the importance of the economy in the provincial election that begin in New Brunswick yesterday. That's not a surprise. What is a surprise is the position of the leaders. The Progressive Conservative and Liberal leaders are all about creating jobs -- with Tory David Alward supporting "investments" in energy and the Liberal leader Brian Gallant favouring "investments" in education and training. Still, no surprise. But here is what the CP reports about the NDP leader:
New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy said the government needs to get its books in order by eliminating the deficit, forecast to be $387.3 million this fiscal year, and reducing a net debt that’s expected to hit $12.2 billion by March 2015.
Cardy said Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments have talked about creating jobs, when the role of government should be to help create a more job-friendly climate.
“Job creation has to come from the private sector that’s given its freedom to do its job, which is to create and sell products and services who want to buy them,” he said, promising to eliminate the small business tax.

The right to marry and the right to refuse customers
At, gay libertarian Scott Shackford defends both same-sex marriage and the right of individuals and companies not to do business with homosexual couples tying the not:
The belief in freedom of association, therefore, obligates us to respect the right to refuse to associate with certain people, even if bigotry is a possible reason for that refusal. A Christian baker shouldn't have the authority to stop a same-sex couple from getting married. But the couple shouldn't have the authority to require a baker to make them a wedding cake for the ceremony. Freedom of association in the world of commerce requires us to accept the right of both sides to determine with whom to do business. The same right that calls for the government to recognize same-sex marriages also permits the baker to refuse to provide a wedding cake ...
Just as a libertarian's general support for same-sex couples to define their own partnerships and families isn't an endorsement of homosexuality, a libertarian's general support for the right of a business to refuse to engage in commerce with somebody shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of bigotry. In order to restrict a person's right to freedom of association, the damage caused by the outcomes must be very high. Having to select a different bakery or photographer, many of whom would love to do business with gay couples, does not rise to that threshold.
I wouldn't describe (all) people who do not want to be associated with a same-sex marriage as bigots, but Shackford's argument is that tolerance goes a long way to protecting genuine liberty and reducing social friction.

Midterm watch (Don't forget the House edition)
Roll Call reports, "The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in a half dozen House races, all in favor of Republican candidates." Admittedly some have only moved from "Democrat Favoured" to "Leans Democrat" or "Leans Democrat" to "Toss-up/Tilts Democrat." More significantly, two of the races are in California, two are in Illinois, and one each in Michigan and Texas.

Quote of the day
Thomas Sowell in his "Random Thoughts" column: "One of the big differences between Democrats and Republicans is that we at least know what the Democrats stand for, whether we agree with it or not. But, for Republicans, we have to guess."

The end of vacations
Vox notes Bureau of Labor Statistics that show (in the words of reporter Evan Soltas):
Nine million Americans took a week off in July 1976, the peak month each year for summer travel. Yet in July 2014, just seven million did. Keeping in mind that 60 million more Americans have jobs today than in 1976, that adds up to a huge decline in the share of workers taking vacations.
Some rough calculations show, in fact, that about 80 percent of workers once took an annual weeklong vacation — and now, just 56 percent do.
Soltas also notes:
The average American gets 14 days off from work, according to an annual survey by the travel company Expedia, but actually uses only 10 of those days each year.
There are plenty of theories as to why this is the case (most notably the "career penalty" for taking time off work), and a combination of reasons probably explain it. One that Vox does not explore is that with smaller families (and no-children families), a primary reason for taking a longer vacation has disappeared. Another reason that Vox does not explore is the long-term downward trend in after-tax income which makes longer vacations more difficult.

No need to stop the presses
The Globe and Mail reports that the Liberal Party will have ethnic candidates run under their party banner to connect with specific ethnic communities to win their votes: "Four ridings around the GTA have Chinese-Canadians candidates, and in sharp contrast to the Conservatives’ top-down ethnic strategy of wooing voters through messaging that appeals to a specific minority, the Mandarin community is fielding its own candidates." Writing about Geng Tan contesting the Grit nomination in Don Valley North, the Globe reports:
In the case of Mr. Geng’s campaign, his website was mostly in Mandarin and was changed to English only after a conversation with The Globe and Mail last week. His membership list, which The Globe reviewed, was composed exclusively of Chinese names.
The Globe's Craig Offman wonders what this all means for democracy: is it the "essence of the multicultural experiment" or "anti-pluralistic"?
As for Geng, he won decidedly over the riding executive and (presumably) Justin Trudeau's favoured candidate, Rana Sarkar, formerly CEO of the Canada-India Business Council.

'The people who "explain the news" look like they don't actually read the news'
Writing in the Washington Examiner, T. Beckett Adams takes on Vox:
It would take hours to list Vox's numerous mistakes and errors, so we won't even try.
But it's sometimes worth noting the really silly nonsense as it occurs, to point out when America's self-proclaimed “explainers of the news" are flat-out wrong.
Adams complains that Max Fisher's article on Pope Francis "is, for lack of a more polite word, idiotic" -- or a complete failure at humour -- in explaining that the pontiff is calling for a new crusade in the Middle East.

CIA on Twitter
Gregg Easterbrook in his half-not-about-football TMQ column last week:
The CIA got a Twitter account @CIA. Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman had the best line: "In @CIA's case, 'follows you' is redundant."

2016 watch (Bernie Sanders edition)
Bill Scher, executive editor of LiberalOasis and a contributor to RealClearPolitics, says independent socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont), who caucuses with the Democrats, is unlikely to run for the Democratic presidential nomination because the Left isn't going to get behind the senator's campaign soon enough to be a meaningful candidacy:
As Yahoo! News reported, the one thing that would stop Sanders from taking the plunge is a lack of grassroots support and infrastructure. In Sanders’ words, “It's easy for me to give a good speech. … It is harder to put together a grassroots organization of hundreds of thousands … of people prepared to work hard and take on the enormous amounts of money that will be thrown against us.”
If the grassroots doesn’t show up for Sanders soon, he may decide that a run wouldn’t make enough of an impact to be worth the trouble. In other words, pine for [Elizabeth] Warren too long, and you may get no progressive primary challenge at all.
Ostensibly that makes sense, but it might be difficult for someone who is not actually a Democrat, no matter how simpatico with the party, to run for a spot on top of the party's ticket.

Don't use an iPhone when committing a crime
It collects evidence that can be used against alleged criminals. The Independent reported last week:
Pedro Bravo, 20, is accused of kidnapping and strangling his friend Christian Aguilar in September 2012 ...
Evidence collected from Bravo’s iPhone includes records of him using the phone’s flashlight function nine times from 11.31pm to 12:01am on the day that Bravo disappeared and asking the phone: “I need to hide my roommate”.
According to evidence reproduced from the trial by local news stations and picked up by Buzzfeed, Siri responded “What kind of place are you looking for?” before offering four options: “Swamps, reservoirs, metal foundries, dumps”.
Police say that Bravo was using the phone’s flashlight function to hide the body in the woods, and say that location data gathered from the smartphone doesn’t fit with Bravo’s account of his movements that evening.
Smart phone, dumb criminal.
(HT: Kids Prefer Cheese)

Kink vs. perversion
Newsbusters has a story on how a Slate writer wonders if kink is a sexual orientation. One commenter says:
People used to compare kinky in some ways to being perverted. Not so. Take for instant the guy that tickles his girlfriend with a feather. That would be described perhaps as kinky. However if they are perverted they will probably find something to do with the whole chicken.
(HT: My summer intern)

'Ohio man admits to having sex with up to 100 dead women'
The New York Daily News reports, "Kenneth Douglas admitted to having sex with the corpses between 1976 and 1992 when he worked as a morgue attendant." Douglas explained that he had alcohol or drugs before working with the female corpses, "I would just get on top of them and pull my pants down."

Monday, August 18, 2014
Nicholas Kristof on the poor
Bryan Caplan points to a Nicholas Kristof column on the poor in the developing world in which the New York Times columnist says: "[I]f the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children's prospects would be transformed." Kristof notes a Congolese family that cannot afford mosquito nets or the $2.50-a-month school tuition for each kid, while the father nurses a dollar-a-night bar habit several times a week. So much of poverty has to do with bad choices, even in Africa.

On this day in Canadian history
On August 18, 1843, George Brown, a Scottish-born journalists and politician, began publishing The Banner newspaper, a four-page Presbyterian paper with a "Religious Department" (ran by his father Peter) and a "Secular Department," run by the son. Brown took up the Reform cause but due to the paper's predominantly religious orientation, he opened the Toronto Globe the next year. Brown used his journalistic influence to command the Clear Grit (later Liberal) faction and became an important political leader, including senator, premier of the Province of Canada, and Father of Confederation.

Urban 'experts' don't care about average people
The under-rated Joel Kotkin, Roger Hobbs Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, in the Washington Post: "The people designing your cities don’t care what you want. They’re planning for hipsters." Kotkin begins his column:
Their current conventional wisdom embraces density, sky-high scrapers, vastly expanded mass transit and ever-smaller apartments. It reflects a desire to create an ideal locale for hipsters and older, sophisticated urban dwellers. It’s city as adult Disneyland or “entertainment machine,” chock-a-block with chic restaurants, shops and festivals.
Overlooked, or even disdained, is what most middle-class residents of the metropolis actually want: home ownership, rapid access to employment throughout the metropolitan area, good schools and “human scale” neighborhoods.
A vast majority of people — roughly 8o percent — prefer a single-family home, whether in the city or surrounding communities. And they may not get “creative” gigs at ad agencies or writers collectives, but look instead for decent-paying opportunities in fields such as construction, manufacturing or logistics.
You wouldn't find the vastly over-rated Richard Florida write something like this:
Of course, few urbanists wax poetic about Dallas or Des Moines. They lack Brooklyn’s hipster charm, and often maintain some of the trappings of the suburbs. But these “opportunity cities” offer what Descartes called “an inventory of the possible” — urbanity as an engine of upward mobility for the middle and working classes.
Opportunity cities (as Kotkin calls them) in the Sun Belt are growing, with STEM jobs leading to more growth for municipalities that Florida's vaunted Creative Class.
Kotkin also notes that "luxury cities" (New York, San Francisco, Boston -- Creative Class havens) have more inequality and are driving out black populations.
What works is eschewed by the experts, who, despite growing evidence that their models don't work quite as claimed, cling to their (hipster) values.

The future of sex
Robots, says Glenn Reynolds in USA Today. While this separates reproduction from sexual intercourse, Reynolds also argues that the future of reproduction could separate the sexes: women won't need men to have a baby, but perhaps the opposite will be true, too. Not all progress moves humanity forward.

Sunday, August 17, 2014
I love this kind of exercise
Vox: "How we'd cover Ferguson if it happened in another country." It would be seen as a major sign of political unrest and the country's dysfunction, and how other countries react -- and possibly intervene -- would be important. We would probably recognize the police state aspect to the story.
A snippet:
Missouri, far-removed from the glistening capital city of Washington, is ostensibly ruled by a charismatic but troubled official named Jay Nixon, who has appeared unable to successfully intervene and has resisted efforts at mediation from central government officials. Complicating matters, President Obama is himself a member of the minority sect protesting in Ferguson, which is ruled overwhelmingly by members of America's majority "white people" sect.
America is obsessed with race relations, but for other countries, it becomes various ethnic groups. Does viewing racial differences as sect or ethnic divisions instead change the narrative?

George Will on the ever-grasping, ever-growing tentacles of the state
George Will has a very good column on the grandstanding of politicians against corporate "inversions" but within the column is a terrific paragraph that explains the modern state and much of modern politics:
This is the progressive premise in action: Because government provides infrastructure (roads, etc.) affecting everyone, and because government-dispensed money flows everywhere, everything is beholden to the government, and more or less belongs to the government, and should be subordinated to its preferences, which always are for more control of the nation's wealth. Walgreens retreated, costing its shareholders, employees and customers billions.

Praying before meals brings discount at North Carolina diner
Tyler Cowen links to the BBC story:
For the past four years, Mary’s Gourmet Restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had been surprising customers with a 15% discount if they prayed or meditated before meals.
“It could be anything – just taking a moment to push away the world,” says Mary Haglund, the owner. “I never asked anyone who they were praying to – that would be silly. I just recognised it as an act of gratitude.”
Predictably, once the story went public, it caused outrage. However, this is really no one's business but the owner's. This is not about freedom of religion (or lack thereof) but the rights of property owners to conduct business how they wish.
It is also important to note that they are not rewarding status (a religion), but an activity (prayer). And from Haglund's description, it need not be prayer, but a moment of reflection. Taking offense at this is a sign of serious anti-religion sentiment.

Mental health as public policy failure
Toronto physician David Grazter has a thoughtful, non-hysterical column in the Friday Globe and Mail about mental health as a public policy failure. You do not have to buy into the numbers he quotes about the extent of the problem (number of people affected or the costs) to understand that it is a tragedy that more is not done to help people with mental health problems. And there might be some (relatively) low hanging fruit, with some simple and low cost (for health care) ways to help. This sentence deserves much more consideration -- columns, discussion, experimentation -- than most lines in any column: "In the age of Google and apps, the practice of psychiatry needs to move past the face-to-face interactions of the era of Freud and couches." That is not merely a failure of public policy but professional imagination and culture.

Big Government and the police
We desperately need to demilitarize the police.
Senator Rand Paul in Time:
Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
This is usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism. The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick wrote in 2013 that, “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.” ...
When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.
One Democrat is proposing to do something about this (I cannot see many brain-dead Republicans climbing on board this common-sense proposal):
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) announced Thursday that he plans to file legislation aimed at stemming the militarization of local police -- something on full display this week in Ferguson, Missouri, where officers in riot gear have been showering largely peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets.
In a letter to his Democratic colleagues, Johnson asked for support for his bill, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. The measure would rein in a Defense Department program that provides Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, M16 assault rifles and other surplus military equipment to local law enforcement, free of charge.
"Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s," Johnson says in his letter.
Steven Hayward blames liberalism (or, more properly, the "liberal administrative state") but this ignores the role that conservatives have played, especially by stoking fear about crime for political gain. Conservatives, if they really believe in limited government and a smaller state, should get behind efforts to reduce the militarization of the police. Saying that cops do not need tanks and anti-mine equipment (and especially a militaristic mentality) is not siding with criminals or rioters.

Saturday, August 16, 2014
The forgotten Italians of liberalism
Classical liberalism that is. Alberto Mingardi has a post at EconLog that examines a number of Italian liberals (mostly economists) and sadly very few will be known by English-speaking readers. Mingardi is reading Liberalism. The Life of an Idea by Edmund Fawcett and finds that the author focuses too much on the Anglo-Saxon, German, and French portion of the story, but there are liberty-loving intellectuals everywhere.
Of course, Vilfredo Pareto is well-known, but most of the others are not. So I am excited to learn more about some of these thinkers, especially Luigi Einaudi, an Italian politician who started out as a socialist in university.
One with which I was also familiar was Fr. Antonio Rosmini Serbati, a vigorous defender of private property, who is controversial within Catholic circles and in 2001 required an official statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that did little to clarify whether his position was consistent with Catholic teaching (it is, but it is not the teaching of the Church). He was one of the first Catholic thinkers to embrace the free market in the 19th century, evident most especially in his work The Constitution Under Social Justice.

The world is full of good news that does not get reported
Matt Ridley in his (London) Times column: "In a time of widespread violence and disease, good news is no news." Ridley explains:
Remember the media does not give a fair summary of what happens in the world. It tells you disproportionately about the things that go badly wrong. If it bleeds, it leads, as they say in newspapers. Good news is no news.
So let’s tot up instead what is going, and could go, right. Actually it is a pretty long list, just not a very newsworthy one. Compared with any time in the past half century, the world as a whole is today wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, kinder, freer, safer, more peaceful and more equal.
The average person on the planet earns roughly three times as much as he or she did 50 years ago, corrected for inflation. If anything, this understates the improvement in living standards because it fails to take into account many of the incredible improvements in the things you can buy with that money. However rich you were in 1964 you had no computer, no mobile phone, no budget airline, no Prozac, no search engine, no gluten-free food. The world economy is still growing every year at a furious lick — faster than Britain grew during the industrial revolution.
The average person lives about a third longer than 50 years ago and buries two thirds fewer of his or her children (and child mortality is the greatest measure of misery I can think of). The amount of food available per head has gone up steadily on every continent, despite a doubling of the population. Famine is now very rare. The death rate from malaria is down by nearly 30 per cent since the start of the century. HIV-related deaths are falling. Polio, measles, yellow fever, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid, typhus — they killed our ancestors in droves, but they are now rare diseases.
We tell ourselves we are miserable, but it is not true.
Ridley points to the excellent Our World In Data which shows how things are improving, almost everywhere, over time.

Gene Simmons advice to immigrants
Breitbart reports that former KISS frontman Gene Simmons said in an interview with the Huffington Post that the way for immigrants to succeed in America is to learn English and assimilate. Simmons came to the United States when he was eight years old.

2016 watch (Ben Carson edition)
The Daily Caller reports:
In an interview with The Daily Caller on Friday, a close friend and adviser to Ben Carson said he believes it is likely the neurosurgeon will run as a Republican for president in 2016.
“I think he’s very, very serious,” said Terry Giles, who recently agreed to serve as chairman of the campaign if Carson pulls the trigger on a run. “If it were on the big board in Vegas, I’d probably be betting in favor of the fact he’s going to run.”
And I would bet big that he will not win the GOP nomination. It is very difficult to run for a presidential nomination if one has not held elected office before. For better or worse, the presidency is not an entry level position.

On this day in Canadian history
On August 16, 1979, former prime minister John Diefenbaker died at the age of 83. The Progressive Conservative was prime minister from 1957 through 1963.